In Search Of Tone: Tad Doyle Of TAD, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth & Witch Ape Studio

II love doing these interviews talking to guitarist about guitar things, and getting the opportunity to speak one of my musical hero’s is an amazing opportunity. I’m also grateful that I type them out so I can remove all the nervous stuttering and tripping over my own words. Speaking with Tad Doyle was a tough one for me to listen back to [haha].

Tad Doyle / Witch Ape Studio
Tad Doyle / Witch Ape Studio

Tad Doyle is one of the founders of probably the greatest era of rock music. The 90s kicked ass and still can be heard in music being created today. He also owns Witch Ape Studio where he helps record amazing bands such as Sorcia. Needless to say I was a little nervous talking to him but I shouldn’t have been as Tad is the nicest guy and extremely patient. He was kind with me being nervous and really offered up great advice and some phenomenal stories. Thanks Tad.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about how you approach music. Let’s get started with gear and tell me a little about your selection of amps?

My first official amp was a Sunn Beta Bass. Then I got a Fender Champion, which is still one of my favorite amps. Then, I bought a Fender Super Reverb Post-CBS, after that I got Marshall JCM 800 50 watt but I don’t have that anymore. I love the sound of the Mesa Rectifier, so I contacted the company, and they gave us an endorsement which means I paid less for it than the normal guy. We all got Mesa Triple Rectifier’s. Then, I got a Fender Showman black face, I still have and love that amp. I use it all the time. I acquired a Sunn Model T reissue. I also have an amp that’s 1 of 2 in the world. It’s basically a hybrid between a Hiwatt and Model T Power Stage.

That’s really cool. You have quite the collection. I learned you also have a studio. Do you own Witch Ape Studio?

Yes, my wife and I do.

Having so many awesome amps must come in handy there. Do you typically use your amps in the studio or do the bands bring their own?

Generally, I say use what your familiar with. If someone comes in and I feel they can get a better tone with what I have then I will definitely offer that up to them.

When dialling in a tone do you prefer the amps distortion or pedals?

I have amps that I can do both. For my current rig, I use pedals. The search for tone is ongoing and I don’t think I have found the perfect tone yet. Tone evolves.

The title of the series is In Search of Tone, so I guess this will go on forever (which I’m ok with). Do you have a large collection of pedals to choose from?

I have quite a few Earthquaker Devices and I just got a pedal that I really enjoy that’s kind of like a RAT pedal with a higher octave made by Death Fly Audio and I love it. I’ve pretty much kept every pedal I’ve ever had so I have a lot of stuff. A lot of vintage too like a Fuzz Face, all kinds of fuzz pedals.

Do you have a favorite pedal?

Right now it’s the Death Fly Audio effects pedal. It’s great and does what I want it to.

Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth - Roadburn 2016
Tad Doyle / Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth – Roadburn 2016 – Photo by Lee Edwards

How about guitars. Do you have a large selection of those as well?

I have quite a few guitars and started playing on a Fender Jazzmaster with the first TAD record. I bought a few guitars along the way. I bought a Fender Strat which never really floated my boat. A friend of mine said for what you’re doing this is the guitar you need and it was a Gibson SG. At first, I didn’t like it and it took me a while to get into it but then I realized ‘yeah I like the tone of an SG’. I also have a Fender Jaguar that I really like and still have all these guitars.

I did bust an SG in the past. It was at Red Rocks with Soundgarden. By the time we got to New York, Soundgarden brought be on their bus and handed me an SG and asked me what I thought of it. It was a typical looking SG but an older one and I played it a little and said it’s cool and gave it back. They said well do you like it? I said yeah its great I like it and they said well you can have it and just gave it to me. I still have it

Wow that’s amazing.

Yeah I’m still blown away by that. It’s a 1962 Les Paul before they changed the name to SG. It looks like an SG but it’s a Les Paul.

Interesting, I didn’t know that.

It’s all stock and a great guitar. I also had a Gibson SG Junior, which I traded for a regular SG with the guy from Therapy?. When I busted another SG I had, I posted on Facebook, if anybody has an SG body I could come and pick it up. This guy sent me the guitar. It was just the body and neck and it looked insane. It was a mother of pearl inlay over the whole body. Some people were commenting how ugly it was and I said hell no that’s amazing. I asked him how much and he said it’s just collecting dust so just come pick it up. It’s very solid, very thick and amazing. I still have that too.

That’s cool, I really like unique guitars. Going back to the first Fender Jazzmaster you had, I recently bought a Jazzmaster. I’ve been playing around with the rhythm circuit and it’s kind of cool. I was curious if you used that at all?

Yeah I use that circuit. Typically, these days I don’t switch around pickups too often anymore and do most of my stuff with pedals. But it’s fun and you can do a lot of various things with it like getting a lower gain or play some cleaner parts and then pop that back down and rock out. I forgot to mention that I just bought a Fender Telecaster as well. I like the chimey sound of a Telecaster.

Witch Ape Studio
Witch Ape Studio

You have quite a lot of gear acquired over the years. Is there one particular item you have had for a long time and will not get rid of?

No, I think earlier in my career I would have had. Today, I really love my amps and won’t get rid of those. More down the road, I’ve realized it’s not really the machine but the player and if you give a good player a shitty instrument and amp, they can sound amazing on it. That’s kind of where I’m coming from.

When writing music, do you tend to jam and see what happens or sit down and write out songs?

It’s pretty organic, we’re just jamming out on things, working the song out, trying to remember a certain part and then linking them together. That’s how I approach it at least. I’ve never really sat down and written out a song with a pen and paper. Honestly, I don’t really know how to read tablature, although I’ve been told how to. I don’t really have a use for tabs.

Do you do everything by ear?

Yeah, all by ear.

That’s impressive.

Well, the guitar kind of plays me if you think about it. My hands go where they need to go. It’s a weird thing. Sometimes you miss and there’s a bit of chance to it. To be honest, some of the best riffs I came up with were fuck ups.

Speaking of fuck ups, I have a lot of those, and they don’t sound good. What do you do if you’re having an off day?

Out of experience, I know that it will pass. A lot of it has to do with how your spirit is and how you’re feeling. I always know if I’m drinking a lot of water and stay hydrated, I’m generally more fluid. (for lack of a better term), it’s easier for me to come up with stuff and I think better. I’m in a better creative mood.

It comes in spells though. I actually went a couple of years without playing guitar. It was actually a cleansing experience. I’m sort of that way again. I pick it up here and there but I’m so busy recording other bands, mixing and mastering that I haven’t really picked up the guitar recently and writing my own stuff.

How did you get into recording. Is it something you did with TAD?

It all happened after. I was always fascinated with how things happened but back then I was more focused on the creative side of music. I got into by accident. In 2006 I moved back to Seattle, and I wanted to record my own stuff. It never seemed easier with digital interfaces and all the DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) out there. I bought an Mbox 2 and some monitors with my wife. I got Pro Tools with it and focused on that. I got really into it and enjoyed it. Many years later, I am pretty fluent on a lot of DAWs and I’ve got a great set up and many bands come here to record. It’s pretty cool. A lot of things I’ve learned was through making mistakes. It’s a day-to-day process and I’m still learning.

Tad Doyle / Witch Ape Studio
Tad Doyle / Witch Ape Studio

How do you go about creating unique music without repeating yourself or others?

I think me being who I am, and others being who they are, who wants to sound like someone else. I sure as hell don’t. If someone else did it then I don’t want to copy it. I was in a band in Boise, where I grew up, and we knew every song off of Gang of Four’s Entertainment. I then saw Gang of Four live and thought ‘oh man, there’s no fucking way we’re going to play these songs’. That’s when I realized its more the energy and the feel you’re putting into something than it is the technical aspect of it. The execution, the fire behind it and the emotion is more important than the other shit. The other stuff is important too, but it’s good to have that fire with it. There is nothing wrong with learning someone else’s songs. It’s good practice and fun but, yourself will always come through and make it sound a little different.

I know you said you haven’t played the guitar much recently, but do you have a practice routine or warm-up you do on a daily basis?

Yeah, there are a few little bit of warm-ups stuff I do. It’s really to sit with the instrument and get comfortable with it again. Especially after time it can feel different, and you approach it a little different. That’s why I really like the time off I have, it’s very good because I approach the guitar different when I come back.

When you’re not playing guitar, do you play any other instruments, or have you played any in the past?

I played Tuba when I was young and realized I didn’t like that. I moved on to drums for a while and that has really helped me in recording and helping the bands get really good performances. I’ve dabbled with bass and keyboards as well.

Do you have any advice for new bands entering the studio?

Oh definitely. Just be prepared. Know your music and know your songs inside and out and record them, even if it’s on your iPhone or whatever. Then listen to them because you will hear them a little different then if you were playing them. Then you’ll find out that maybe a part works better in a different spot or doesn’t work at all.

Also, have your gear prepared. Have fresh strings and new heads and back up string, picks and drumsticks. Mostly, know what your purpose is and leave your drama behind. Stay focused on the moment and it will make for a really great recording.

This has truly been an amazing experience talking with you, I’m a huge fan and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.

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Interviewed by: Josh Schneider